Situational awareness: A commonly used term among pilots and others in the aviation world. The term often refers to a pilot’s awareness of the airplane’s physical location in space, but extends outward to include all factors relating to the safety of the flight, and is a big part of single pilot resource management.
It’s also a very important aspect of everyday life as a Pilot Wife, or any other woman, for that matter.
Today I was out to lunch with my son at Taco Bell. I know, I know. He picked the cuisine, not me; don’t judge! As we were sitting at the table eating our snack, I started to feel a tingling down my neck and then noticed that my son was suddenly, repeatedly glancing over my shoulder. I turned around, and there was a man that had entered the building from the rear customer door and was sitting at the table right behind ours. He was staring intently at my son and I. He hadn’t ordered any food, didn’t appear to be waiting for anyone, and was entirely too focused on us to be natural or comfortable.
I immediately gave him a very nasty ‘look’ that said I know you are there and asked my son loudly and pointedly if that guy was staring at us, to which he said, ‘Yes, Mommy. And he keeps talking to himself too.’
I figured our obvious awareness of his presence would be enough to give the man the hint that I knew he was there and he would knock off the behavior, but it didn’t. He continued the staring, and my son began to beg me to leave. Now, if you knew him, you would understand that this is a child that is pure love. He has hardly ever met a stranger, and I cannot remember a time that he didn’t like someone simply from an appearance.
He was becoming agitated and began to beg me to just abandon our food on the table and leave. I was in agreement that it was time to go. After sitting there only approximately three more minutes after my initial acknowledgement that the guy was staring at us and him continuing to do so, I told my son that we were going to leave. Now, I was pretty sure this dude was probably just a member of our local homeless population and no doubt suffered from schizophrenia, but I decided it was an uncomfortable situation for us at the very least and that we would simply remove ourselves from it. For the record, we have worked with the homeless for nearly a decade, and neither my child or myself are afraid or fazed by them (in fact, we’ve been known to sit on a random curb and have a conversation with the homeless). But this guy…he was radiating something evil, and I felt the dark vibes right down to the core of every cell.That being said, he hadn’t actually approached, accosted, or threatened us in any real way, and if you have been around those with mental illness, you know that staring into space is not an uncommon symptom.
That being said, I was on high alert anyway. As we rose and discarded our trash, I watched the guy closely to see if he would acknowledge our exit, and he didn’t show any signs of picking up his pack or getting up, so we went ahead and exited the building. If he had risen with us or shown signs of following (other than that incessant staring), my plan was to instead approach the counter (security in numbers) and call the police forthwith. Not that the two young women behind the counter were going to truly be of any help. I was honestly probably more protection for them than they would have been for us anyway.
So the guy did not flinch or rise so I made the decision to just leave. My son was super eager to get out of there. He grabbed my hand and almost dragged me out of the building. He seemed terrified of this guy; like I said, very unusual for him. Our car was parked by the entrance near where the guy was seated, so we chose to exit through the side door (the building has two exits) so that we did not have to walk by his table on our way out. I honestly felt I was probably being overtly cautious, but the guy’s behavior obviously warranted some amount of extra prudence, plus I couldn’t shake that icky feeling in my stomach that said, “Danger, Will Robinson!”
And it did seem likely that I had simply been an overly protective Momma Bear (if there is such a thing) about the man and that the situation was at an end as we quickly approached our vehicle without problem. Until suddenly my son screamed, “He’s coming, Mommy! He’s coming!” What the??? Sure enough the man came hustling out of the same door we had exited and was headed straight for our vehicle at an intent clip, focused directly on us. My survival instincts were going insane now. This guy was trouble. We slammed the car doors shut, and I immediately locked them, unholstered my firearm (sorry if this bothers you, but I am a legal CHL holder in a legal state), and placed it in my lap with one hand while starting the ignition with the other.
In these 2-3 seconds, the man had reached the curb on my passenger side bumper still staring intently through the window at my child and reached into his left hip pocket. He didn’t appear to be stopping, and it looked for all intents and purposes like he was heading for my son’s door. I threw the car in reverse, and hauled it out of there…and the man actually followed us across the parking area and to the lot exit where he stood watching us as we sped down the street (as reported by my little boy, who was pretty shaken by what transpired today).
Of course, I called the police and reported him because, though we were safe, I had a very real worry about any other women and children who may be dining there, and the man was obviously unstable at best and an intentional predator at worst. I also called the store and informed them of what had happened so they could watch their diners and employees (though to be fair I kind of got blown off).
Look, I am not sure what he was reaching for in that pocket or why he was so intent on us, but I felt absolutely, 100% certain that this man was about the attempt to abduct/harm my child or myself and was afraid he was reaching in his pocket for a firearm as he charged towards my son’s door. Perhaps he was just going to offer us a stick of gum or ask for directions…but I don’t think so. There was an absolute intent to harm in his eyes, his mannerisms, and his actions. The spirit of evil radiating from him was overwhelmingly tangible. My son and I both clearly felt it.
I want to insert here how very proud I am of my 12yo son as well. It was actually him who first noticed the unusual behavior of the man and who alerted me to it. And as we were walking to our car, he pulled out his little pocket knife and had it opened, ready to defend his Mommy. I mean, what a big little man! As scared as I know he was, he was prepared and was determined to protect us. Oh, my Momma’s heart. But don’t worry son, anyone that wants to get to you is going to get a face full of me. That’s a promise.
I also want you to know that at no time during this scenario was I afraid or panicked. I was a thousand percent in control, thinking clearly, and without the debilitating fog of fear. Actually, I was completely calm because I was aware and prepared. I was walking right through my emergency game plan because I had a game plan to walk through.
Here’s why I am sharing this story with you: it is incredibly important that you are always, always, always aware of your surroundings. You need a game plan in place too. We are NOT immune to crime and evil. There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ place where you can afford to let down your guard in public. We think stuff like that ‘only happens to other people,’ but that is not the truth! I’m here as one of you and an example that it happens to us. Sadly, this situation does’t even rank as an ‘uncommon’ one in today’s broken world. Ladies, we have to get our heads out of the sand and into the game. We are ultimately responsible for our own safety.Ladies, we have to get our heads out of the sand and into the game. We are ultimately responsible for our own safety. Click To Tweet
We sometimes get so distracted with our errands, to-do lists, packages, problems, texts, rowdy children, etc. that we are not paying enough attention to who and what is around us. The world is not a cuddly, happy, safe place anymore, and it is even less so for a woman who is out and about by herself or who is towing small children (which we know can be a huge deterrent to our situational awareness). Whether you are a Pilot Wife with a traveling spouse, a woman whose spouse is working and you are out and about, or a single woman living life at your own pace and taking care of your own business, we must each and every one be vigilant about our safety and awareness.
Put down your phones and pay attention to who and what is around you. Park in well-lit areas and not next to windowless vans or similar vehicles. Note any people sitting in parked cars and especially be aware of anyone who is paying more than an acceptable amount of attention to you or your child. Lock your doors as soon as your butt hits the seat. Never allow a man to walk behind you as you are going to and from your vehicle (I always stop and face them and let them pass). Carry some sort of personal defense on yourself at all times. It’s fine if you are not a fan of firearms or if it is not an option where you are. There are many ways to defend yourself; pepper spray, tasers, firearms, carrying your keys with the key out between your knuckles, a noise maker, and a serrated LED flashlight are all good personal defense tools. Have them; know how to use them. In fact, choose something you know you will use.
As we enter the holiday season, we also enter a season of even deeper desperation for the already desperate and even more distraction for most of us who are already far too distracted. Make situational awareness an intentional effort and first priority. Teach your children awareness too. Don’t teach them fear but rather awareness and safety. Help them understand the signs to look for and how to react in situations that are uncomfortable.
Most of all, trust your instinct, ladies. If it feels wrong, it is wrong. Your instincts are good; believe them.Trust your instinct, ladies. If it feels wrong, it is wrong. Your instincts are good; believe them. Click To Tweet
There’s no way to know what ‘could have’ happened today. If my son and I had not been aware of our surroundings and prepared to make quick and safe choices, things could have gone much differently. Had we not been watching him closely or aware of his presence, he could have been allotted an opportunity to grab one of us. He could have gotten my son’s door open before I realized what was going on. He could have…. Well, a lot of things. But he didn’t. And that’s really the point I am trying to make here.
I cannot dwell on the what if’s too much because we are, praise God, safe and sound thanks to our acute awareness, quick thinking, and good choices and we simply don’t know ‘what if’. Besides, the alternative is truly unthinkable. However, I beg you, family, let this be a stark reminder to be safe out there. It doesn’t just happen to ‘other’ people; it’s real, and it’s right here in our own backyards.
Pay attention and be vigilant about your safety every single time you are out and about. Remember that it’s always better to err on the side of caution than to become the next victim.
I love you, aviation family. Stay safe.
Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)
Just Winging It: Prayers for My Pilot Wife (autographed)
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Captain on the Road; First Officer at Home (Gold Bars) Soft Jersey Tee